Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
At the end of July I returned to the lovely city of Bogotá. Seven months ago there were more security measures, for example to enter a shopping centre carpark, first all doors would be opened by an armed guard while a sniffer dog inspected the car and mirrors were used to look under the car. This time, the presidential election was finished and I went to the same shopping centre but the car was not inspected at all. Similarly, there were fewer soldiers armed with very large guns on the streets, still two per block in the areas with major hotels but otherwise everything felt more relaxed. I saw lots of groups of people smiling and sharing a few words and a laugh together. Colombians in Bogotá seem to be in good spirits.
When I was in Bogotá in November 2013 a small truck drove past my hotel with a loud speaker projecting a repetitive slogan that I couldn’t catch. It was in the lead-up to the presidential election and the little truck reminded me of The Famished Road by Ben Okri. The Colombian presidential election was held on May 25, 2014. No candidate received 50% of the vote in the first round, so a run-off between the top two candidates took place on June 15, 2014. Incumbent president Juan Manuel Santos was re-elected president, gaining 50.95% of the vote compared with 45.00% for Óscar Iván Zuluaga. The returning of President Santos to office is a mandate from the voters for him to continue efforts to negotiate a peace deal with leftist guerrillas and end more than a half-century of internal conflict.
As always I had splendid meals in Colombia. While in a light industrial area we ducked over to the local shopping district and dined at an excellent seafood restaurant that I can’t imagine finding in a light industrial part of an Australian city. I take it to be an indication of the emphasis placed on good food in Colombian culture.
I took the midnight flight from Bogotá to Houston and was disappointed that my hotel (Hotel Derek) couldn’t prepare a room for me. I had a tasty breakfast in the hotel restaurant, changed into my bikini and rested by the poolside in the gorgeous sunshine before dressing for my first business meeting that day. I gave about 14 presentations over 8 days in Houston and each of them was well received. I put a lot of care into preparing my slides and because I know my work so well I felt calm and confident during each of my presentations despite being introverted by nature.
I used LinkedIn to contact an acquaintance who relocated from Australia to Houston. He kindly invited me to after work drinks with his friends and then the following evening I joined them for dinner and a movie. It was delightful to be included in their social gatherings. I then met up with another acquaintance (also contacted through LinkedIn not Facebook because I closed my account) and we went to a groovy Latin restaurant (Latin Bites) for a tasty 3 course Latin meal and nice conversation. By coincidence all of the people that I socialised with are originally from Venezuela and I really enjoyed their warmth and sense of social justice.
On the weekend in Houston I walked 2.1 miles from my hotel to the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center. I only saw two other pedestrians in the 1 hour and 20 minutes that it took me to walk there and back and both of those pedestrians made me wish I was safely in one of those big shiny cars that were speeding past me. I enjoyed wandering the many walking trails in the arboretum for a couple of hours, observing the diverse plants and ecosystems, watching the wildlife especially the popular red-necked turtles, observing the many other people in the arboretum (including some very obese people struggling to walk around in the warmth of midday) and thrilling from a joyous interaction with a beautiful blonde labrador who loved having pats as much as I loved patting her.
That evening I explored the Galleria shopping centre and enjoyed some Tex Mex with a frozen margerita for dinner.
On Sunday I had a tasty Houstonian brunch then spent the day at the Johnson Space Centre. I strongly felt that it would be better to explore with my children as most of the exhibits are aimed at them.
After an enjoyable week and a half in Houston I had a difficult journey home due to many delays in LA (with QF108 that I wrote about here). I did manage to squeeze in an unexpected mini vacation in Long Beach as a result and I enjoyed the warmth of the sun and lying on the beach in my bikini, feeling the demands and pressures of the previous 2 weeks melting away. It really is a very long and wide beach with lovely yellow sand. I walked a couple of kilometres along the beach and didn’t reach the end of it.